In my mid twenties I was exposed to the philosophical teachings and writings of George Gurdjeif and his student / disciple, P.D. Ouspenski. Both men shared the belief that humans are not necessarily unified whole beings, but instead are similar to machines with many moving parts, centers and opposing forces. They called this fragmented condition, our many I’s. The body for example, has its own I with it’s stored memories, automatic movements, intelligence, habits, desires etc. Separate yet connected, our minds, hearts, and emotions have their own unique processes with automatic reactions, agendas, moods and directions.
According to Ouspenski, the “I” in this moment is not the same “I” in another moment. “There are “I’s” that do not know one another and never even come into contact. For example, one “I decides to do something and another “I” has to carry out the decision. Often this other”I” is either unwilling to do it or never even heard about it.” (The Fourth Way) J. D. Ouspenski, 1957
Both philosophers suggested that in order to achieve greater internal unity and reach our fullest potential, we must pay closer attention to our many “I’s”. We need to observe our automatic likes and dislikes, responses, daily activities and movements, noticing where we are pulled, repelled, excited and avoidant. In the case of resistance to something we know will benefit us, we must be willing, even in the midst of our protests, to challenge ourselves and move in difficult or unfamiliar directions.
To share a small but relevant personal example …I’d like to wash my floor. I am bothered that my bamboo kitchen/ living room floor is dirty, at least for my standards. My mind sees it clearly, imagining the look and feel of the soft glistening wood. I even commit to washing it. But it remains undone. For me, cleaning my floor is a boring task, tedious, and frustrating. My body and emotions feel heavy as my mind conjures up the various products I will need to drag out of the closet, and how I will have to arrange the furniture, papers, books, rug, etc. So, for now, although I’ve decided to wash the floor, I much prefer to do something else…. I guess I’ll keep observing.
Please share with me any thoughts about your own opposing or unified I’s or other comments about this blog. As always, I look forward to hearing from you. Thanks.